Ten years ago the inaugural Korean Theatre Festival arrived in New York with founder Du-Yee Chang performing an original one-man show based on one of Franz Kafka’s novels. Chang, along with 16 other performers from various Seoul theater companies, descend on The Secret Theatre in Long Island City from June 29th through July 3rd to stage three plays as part of the fourth edition of the festival dedicated to Korean theater.
Chang sees the event as a sort of cultural exchange to introduce American audiences to traditional Korean theater. “When we do a Shakespeare play, we are not doing it in an Elizabethan style,” Chang said. “We transform it so Korean audiences can feel familiar with it. It is sort of like how in America, ‘Romeo & Juliet’ became ‘West Side Story.’”
No large-scale musicals are on tap for this year’s festival, but Chang said the three plays scheduled show the variety of what is happening in Korean theater.
“Counselor,” written and directed by Hyun Suk Cha, revolves around the owner of a coffee shop, who offers advice to emotionally and mentally wounded patrons, but who has no memory of his own past. “This is a very modern Korean play,” Chang said. “It is really an interesting psychological drama — like a Harold Pinter play.”
In “The Genius Magician, Young-Sil Chang,” a young magician is the reincarnation of a genius inventor from the 15th-century Chosun Dynasty. Living in a beautiful fictional world, the young magician uses his powers to fight those set on destroying nature.
Both plays will be performed with subtitles displaying English translations of the dialogue.
Although “Same Story, Different Day,” a piece written to mark the 65th Anniversary of the Korean War, will be performed without titles, Chang believes the story will be understood by English-speaking audience members with its use of movement and pantomime.
Although Korean ex-patriots are most likely to attend the festival, Chang hopes to reach plenty of American theatergoers as well.
“We are aiming for both,” he said. “For New Yorkers, these are good plays for theater performances. Korean theater can introduce a different dimension or style.”
June 29 through July 3
Korean Theatre Festival in New York
44-02 23rd St., Long Island City
Cost: $10/general, $7/seniors and students